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Party preference requirement on presidential primary ballot nothing new

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(The Center Square) – Voters who’ve waited to fill out their mail-in ballot for Tuesday’s (March 12) presidential primary may notice they have to mark their party affiliation on the outside of the envelope. For a vote to count in the state’s all-mail presidential primary, voters must check a party declaration as such.

Some voters don’t like that.

Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, told The Center Square he’s received dozens of phone calls from people who are upset about the requirement that voters mark and sign party declarations where it’s visible to anyone.

“People are outraged about having to declare a party affiliation for the primary election, and they’re doubly outraged that this declaration appears on the outside of the ballot envelope,” said Walsh, who also serves as chair of the Washington State Republican Party.

He pointed out that this requirement is not new, noting this is the third presidential primary requiring voters to mark a party preference.

The thinking behind this requirement, according to the Secretary of State’s Office, is that this type of primary is a way for voters to aid the two political parties in deciding on their presidential nominees.

Marked party affiliation must match the party of the candidate selected on the ballot.

Per state law, if a voter declares a party on their ballot, that will be public record for 60 days after the primary election.

Voters will not be required to declare a party in November’s presidential election.

“People should understand this presidential primary, as screwy as it is, does not touch any other election,” Walsh explained.

He went on to note, “It’s because in Washington state we don’t register by party, and that’s a good thing.”

This fulfills a requirement from the parties themselves, Walsh said, that ensures only votes by people affiliated with a party are counted in said party’s primary.

Still, some voters have raised concerns about the party declaration being visible.

Walsh said he and other Republicans have tried for years to offer alternatives, including a flap that would go over the party declaration for privacy, but Democrats have rejected those attempts.

Anyone with concerns can use a ballot drop box, Walsh suggested, or take their ballot directly to a county elections office.

Mailed presidential primary ballots must be postmarked by March 12 to count.

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